Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Prague – Take Two

All I can say is that this was an interesting trip this time.

I decided to go to Prague for the weekend. Wanted to look at some of smaller old churches that don't get the attention that St. Vitus does. This involves walking all around the city. There seems to be a big church on every corner...

Get left work a few hours early on Friday to get a jump on the weekend. This time I decided to take the train instead of the bus. It was on an Euro City train. Very nice, modern and clean. The difference between the Euro City train and the normal ones are quality of the train and time. The normal trains are cold war vintage and take about 3.5 to 4 hours to go from Brno to Prague which is about 210km and they stop at ever little town and village along the way. The Euro City trains are new and take about 2.5 hours and can reach speeds of 175kph.

I arrived in Prague at about 5:30pm and decided to walk to the hotel, rather than take the metro up 3 stops. I was already dark; after getting my bearings I found the hotel no problem, about a 20 min walk. I was staying at the Ramada on Wenceslas's square. Very modern hotel room was $88 USD per night. Most hotels run up to %50 discounts for this time of year. I get checked in and decided to go on the “Historic Pubs of Prague Tour” which is a standard tour offered by most of the tour companies in Prague. You meet up with the guide next to the Astronomical Clock, pay your fee and go of with a small group of people, normally six to eight. The idea is they take you to historical pubs, you have a been in each one, and a dinner while the guide talks about the history of the pub and the surrounding area. The tour I was on went to 3 pubs.

From Prague - 13 &...

The group I was with was quite fun. A couple from London, and 3 Aussies, who were living in London two guys and the girl friend.

We started off by going to a old pub dating from the 16th century. It was closed during the cold war but quickly reopened when the communists left power. It was and still is known as a meeting place for artists, actors and intellectuals, so I'm sure you can see why the communists closed it.

The second pub is were we had dinner. The pub was decorated with hand drawn cartoons from a famous Czech cartoonist all over the walls and ceiling. As we came to find out the artist is the owner of the pub. Most of the cartoons are similar to the style you would find in Playboy, very racy often about sex, but very funny. Our guide translated a few of them for us. We opted to have dinner at this pub on the advice of our guide. I had roasted pork with potato dumplings, very tasty. A very traditional Czech dinner.

Being a Friday night, many of the traditional pubs were packed. The third and final pub was off a small side street. Very interesting place, they had two dogs running all around, one a large blood hound and the other a large terrier with wiry hair. They were playing ball with each other and keeping the customers amused.

With that our guide bid us good night and took off. The entire group were all staying within a few blocks from each other right off Wenceslas's Square so we decided to walk to the square and have a night cap before turning in. As we started walking off the small side street two women approached me and asked if I was looking for fun, did I wan to have a good time..., which separated me from the group who got about 15 or 20 feet ahead of me. I was trying to push past them and I got caught between two parked cars. The women were grabbing at me telling me “we know you want a good time, come with us” and so on. I realized one of them had her hand under my jacket as I felt down my wallet was gone and my butt pack was unzipped. At that point I yelled “give me back my wallet” and they started to run, at this point the group I was with started to run back. I grabbed on of the girls and tried to hold her. As she was starting to get away I picked her up and slammed her on top of a parked car. She was fighting and struggling so I put her to the ground face first on the cobble stone. This is when it started to get interesting... four to five men came out of shadows and it was on. The Brits and the Aussie's came out swinging. I had the girl on the ground and had two or three guys punching and kicking me in the back. I rolled and flipped one guy and started punching him. Bad move ... this allowed the girl to get away. His buddy kept hitting me from behind, I kneed the guy on the ground in the neck and got the guy punching me in the knees and he stumbled forward and was able to get a sold shot in the face with my ring (I had blood and skin all over it when I got back to the hotel).

About this time I hear the sirens and they all broke and ran. The Britt I was with gave chase but lost them in the shadows. The police quickly went after them but never came back. A second police unit came by and told us it was too bad and to call and cancel my credit cards immediately. They said the typical operation was two girls and they pick pocket and the guys are in the shadows for protection. They typically work in gangs of 6 to 8 people. What they didn't expect was me to figure out so quick then grab the girl and throw her down.

As a side note, I went back the next day to the spot where it happened and found quite a bit of blood on the cobble stone. I suspect when I threw the girl down she busted her lip or chin on the ground. As I walked around the next day I was looking for a girl with a busted up face.... No luck. :-(

I found out after talking with everyone that they were fighting with 2 other guys. We all had scraped up knuckles and some cuts and bruises. I must have gotten to a shot to the mouth, my bottom lip was cut up on the inside.

One other note. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the folks I was with. If your reading this, Thanks! Drop me a line with your email address. For sure... it made for one of the most memorable tours I've ever been on!

On the way back to the hotel, called Amber and had her call and cancel all the cards. At least they didn't get the cell phone.

Other than the inconvenience they got away with 3000 Czech crowns (about $135 USD) and my credit cards. I did find out from Bank of America and American Express that whoever stole them did try and use the cards for cash advances, but were declined. They didn't get my passport or train tickets fortunately.

So... its now midnight and here I sit with about 200 Czech crowns (about $10 USD) in my pocket and no other way to get money, I have two more days in Prague to go. I call American Express back to see what they can do. God knows I pay them enough money every month, I'm a gold card member so they should be able to do something to help, right? Yes they did. They wired $700 USD to Western Union, which was a life saver. One thing I'll say about American Express they were on the ball and very helpful.

Now I have a full day ahead of me on Monday trying to get and American Express card and a ATM card overnighted to me. Friday of next week is my last day in Brno before I head back to the US on Sunday. I was planning on staying the weekend with Ben in Vienna, so having the ability to simply get cash would be nice. I guess I could always get Amber to wire me cash but thats expensive and a real pain.

Anyway, the summary is, carry cash and credit cards in a pouch under your shirt that is securely around your neck, if anyone ever approaches you get out of the way fast. If you stop your done. Push right thru and keep on going.

I haven't been in a street fight in a while so that was interesting.

More about the Saturday and Sunday in a bit.


Flood, new blog site...

Last Friday our apartment flooded so I had to take my server offline, which means no blog photos and other assorted fun things. I had blog entried piling up so I decided to use the Google Blog service, it free and it gives it the ability to redirect it to my domain name. So here it is. I'll back post all the old blog entries as soon as I can get the old server back up and export them. Anyway... hope you like it...